1 Mar 2013: Urban Studies Seminar

Issued: Thu, 13 Sep 2012 17:42:00 BST

Criminal dons, police and security guards: Unconventional security assemblages in urban Jamaica

Dr Rivke Jaffe (University of Amsterdam)

2.15-3.45pm, Room 916, Adam Smith Building

Much recent scholarly debate has focused on how global processes of neoliberalisation are transforming the role of the state. Specific attention has focused on how governance is increasingly achieved through networks or assemblages of state, corporate and voluntary actors. Such assemblages of state and non-state actors blur the lines between public and private, and between local, national and transnational. This type of hybrid governance is especially evident in the context of security. As states shift more of the responsibility for security to non-state actors, the agencies and agents that deliver security and policing services become increasingly heterogeneous. In addition to state security forces such as the police and the military, private security companies, neighbourhood watches and vigilante groups make up the larger ‘security quilt’.

This talk focuses on unconventional security assemblages in Kingston, Jamaica. Kingston is plagued by high rates of criminal violence, with the dubious honour of being one of the world’s ‘murder capitals’. In addition to an increasingly repressive, militarised police force, a number of non-state actors have also emerged as important security providers. Many wealthier citizens turn to private security companies and retreat into gated communities and other types of fortified enclaves. In inner-city neighbourhoods, residents increasingly turn to ‘dons’ (neighbourhood leaders who are often linked to criminal organisations) for security and dispute resolution. These various security providers – criminal dons, the police and private security guards – both compete and cooperate. The talk explores how the privatisation and pluralisation of security provision affects the relationship between citizens and the Jamaican state. It discusses the forms of ‘differentiated citizenship’ that are produced, and how political subjectivities shift, as a result of these modes of security governance.

Rivke Jaffe is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She previously held teaching and research positions at Leiden University, the University of the West Indies, and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV). Her research focuses primarily on intersections of the urban and the political, focusing specifically on the spatialization of power, difference and inequality within cities.

She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Jamaica and Curaçao on topics ranging from the urban environment to the political economy of multiculturalism. Her current research, in Jamaica, studies the complicated relationship between the postcolonial state, criminal leaders and the urban poor. This research explores how criminal organizations and the formal state share control over urban spaces and populations, and the formulations of citizenship and sovereignty that result from this.

All welcome.


For further information please contact Mark Livingston (mark.livingston@glasgow.ac.uk, 0141 330 6162) or Julie Clark (Julie.Clark@glasgow.ac.uk, 0141 330 4516).